Driving in Portsmouth on the small Caribbean island of Dominica is what most would call an adventure. The rugged roads conditions, unique driving-style of locals, and laws that take some getting used to can cause many visitors to shy away from renting a vehicle during their stay. While the abundance of other transportation options means this is perfectly acceptable, but all it takes is a little forethought and you shouldn't have much issue getting behind the wheel.
To rent a vehicle on the island, you'll have to be 21-years-old or older, but make sure you confirm with the rental agency, because some require you be at least 25. When you arrive on the island, you will also have to purchase a local drivers permit for $12(USD) at the airport, the Traffic Department, or in some cases, at the rental agency. You will need your driver's license from your home town to prove you have experience driving, and once you have the permit in hand it is valid for one month.
The table below lists the rental agencies in this general area.
|(767) 235-7368||Picard - 1.5 mi. (2.5 km) South of Portsmouth|
|(767) 445-3498||Picard - Portsmouth|
|Silver Linings Rentals||(767) 445-3802||Michael Douglas Boulevard - Portsmouth|
|(767) 445-6931||Granby Street - Portsmouth|
The typical rental car in Portsmouth will come equipped with air conditioning, a radio, and right hand drive. Some have a manual transmission, so be sure to request an automatic car if this is a problem for you. In order to navigate the roads of Portsmouth, it is recommended that you also request a Jeep or other sports utility vehicle known for its good suspension and four-wheel drive. Higher ground clearance an the ability to work your way through mud is essential.
Comparable to car rental facilities in much of the United States, you can expect to pay $50 to $60(USD) a day, plus the cost of insurance, which is typically another $10 to $20(USD) a day. In addition, you will need to have between $800 and $2500(USD) available on a credit card for the rental agency to hold as a deposit. If you return your rental in the same condition that you picked it up in, your deposit will be returned in full, however, if there is so much as a surface scratch, it is likely you'll receive an extra charge. This is why it is important to do a thorough check of your rental before you leave the lot, and let an agent know if you come across any problems.
Various companies will sometimes charge different rates so it can be worth your time to get multiple quotes. The low rates in the tables are typically only available from the least costly local firms during the slow season. The highest rates are what you can expect at one of the busier agencies during the high season.
|Rental Type||Low Rate||High Rate|
|Economy Car||$ 20.00||$ 50.00|
|Pickup Truck||$ 40.00||$ 100.00|
|Light SUV||$ 45.00||$ 65.00|
|Standard SUV||$ 55.00||$ 85.00|
|Mini Van||$ 80.00||$ 90.00|
|Heavy SUV||$ 95.00||$ 125.00|
|Rental Type||Low Rate||High Rate|
|Economy Car||$ 125.00||$ 300.00|
|Light SUV||$ 245.00||$ 375.00|
|Pickup Truck||$ 256.00||$ 620.00|
|Standard SUV||$ 335.00||$ 515.00|
|Mini Van||$ 505.00||$ 546.00|
|Heavy SUV||$ 640.00||$ 770.00|
What most tourists want to know before they head to their Portsmouth vacation is what driving will be like. The first thing to know about driving on the island is that traffic moves on the left side of the road, rather than the right as people from the United States are used to. Roads are narrow with steep inclines and lacking in guardrails that protect drivers from swerving off the edge. Thanks to the fact that many of the roads are winding, seasoned tourists will recommend passengers take a Dramamine before hitting the road.
Many of the roads on Dominica are poorly designed, filled with pot holes and lacking in road signs. The exception to this rule is the road from Roseau and Portsmouth, which was paved in 2011 and is considered to be the most modern road on the island. The trip between these two towns should be smooth, however, if you're driving elsewhere, be prepared to take it slow and steady and know that you will have to rely on landmarks rather than road signs to direct you to you destination. Also be aware that there are very few places to pull over off the road on the island, and when it appears you've found such a spot, it is usually a ditch and you could end up stuck in the mud.
Drivers on the island are friendly and can be helpful, but they also have heavy feet and are known for driving recklessly. Don't take it personally if another tailgates you, then speeds around and cuts you off the first chance it gets. Speed limits are rarely enforced, and locals take advantage. A honk or a flash of the lights will let you know that another driver is coming around a curved road, and it is a good idea for you to do this as well so you don't end up in an unnecessary collision on a narrow road. Another tip is to make sure you remain on the lookout for pedestrians (no sidewalks means people walk right in the road) and animals in the road – especially between Portsmouth or Picard and Roseau.
Gas stations are not hard to come by, but be prepared to pay quite a lot to fill up. Prices are almost always over $5.00 a gallon. Make sure to fill up before your dinner reservation, because gas stations tend to close around sundown.
Since you might have difficulties spotting places to refuel, check out the table right below for a picture of where some of them can be found.
|0.4 mi. (0.6 km) South of Portsmouth|
Renting a car in Portsmouth isn't for the faint at heart, but if you arrive prepared you shouldn't have much issue driving around the area. Just make sure you reserve your rental in advance so you get exactly the vehicle you're hoping for.
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